“Mr. President, my name is (withheld by me) and I am from the Enugu Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). I received a copy of the statement of account of the NBA which has been presented for adoption. I was wondering why it was not given to us with our conference materials at the beginning of the conference so we can be properly prepared to deliberate on it before its adoption”
That seemed to be a very polite request for a transparent debate of a statement of account which is the right of a member of an association right?
Well the reaction of the President to this polite request was shocking and left me dumbfounded.
“Please hand over the microphone”, he said in obvious anger. “Welcome to your first bar conference. This is the way accounts have always been presented.”
The above exchange took place at the Annual General Meeting of the NBA at 2015 Annual General Conference (AGC) that took place at the Abuja National Conference Centre.
A lot has happened since then. The NBA constitution has been amended for Electoral Colleges that elected the NBA Executives to give way to universal suffrage.
The 2015 AGC was my first and save for some incidences like the one above, it was a real blast for me. If you doubt that, then read my report of the Conference in the following posts;
The lack of internal democracy in an organisation that boasts the highest gathering of lawyers in Africa was very evident. I mean who fears a transparent debate of an organisation’s statement of account?
From the poor handling of logistics which led to many delegates not having the conference materials to the controversial issue of stamp and seal, it was obvious that decisions had been made and no one was accountable to members. Our complaints could be aired but nothing could be changed.
Ironically, the undemocratic system birthed the new democratic order which has introduced a universal suffrage system for NBA National Elections via a successful constitutional amendment last year. Prior to now, NBA national executives were elected through an Electoral College system which was easy to manipulate and whose decisions many a time did not reflect the real choice of lawyers.
This year, the NBA would hold its real democratic elections and the NBA took it a notch higher by introducing an electronic voting system wherein all lawyers who have paid their yearly practicing fees and branch dues, as well as have their verified data in the NBA database are eligible to vote on the election website from the comfort of their homes and offices on their internet enabled electronic devices.
Yea, you heard right. The NBA has gone E; like digital for real and the young lawyers who are the E-generation of the Nigerian Bar have a golden opportunity thrown on their laps to take their rightful place in the profession. We hold the aces and decide who wears the crown.
Already, with the restriction of campaigns to online platforms and electronic messages, the young lawyers are in the forefront of the campaigns on various blogs, websites and social media platforms.
Even my very good friend and owner of the blog www.threelegals.com Tochukwu Eziukwu had seen the trend and predicted that young lawyers would crown the next king of the bar.
Unfortunately, I have been blogging for over 20 months to highlight the issues affecting young lawyers and it seems they are being overshadowed by other mundane considerations.
The diminishing public image of lawyers in the eyes of the members of the public, the impact of ICT and globalization on the legal profession and how the profession can adapt to these challenges seems not be a campaign issue.
The poor remuneration and exploitation of young lawyers seems not be a burning issue too. In one of my earliest posts “Practice is Hell; Feeling the Pulse of the New Wigs”, I had suggested that candidates aspiring for executive positions should show how much they pay the junior lawyers in their chambers as well their plans to the issue of the poor wages that are thrown to many juniors.
The message to every junior is to ensure they vote. The verification of the voters register and making amendments have not been without hitches but we are not unmindful that the exercise is a novel one and some teething problems are expected. The election proper has been slated for 30th July 2016 and voting is via the NBA election portal available here.
In my next post I shall be discussing the two candidates for the post of president and critically analysing their manifestos and plans for the bar, while juxtaposing same with the current challenges facing the legal profession in Nigeria.
Do keep a date.